George the Greek


Location
: 3575 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Etobicoke
Websitehttp://eatatgeorgethegreek.com/

So, it turns out it’s actually not a great idea to go to a restaurant based on one post from some random guy on a message board. Who knew! (What? That’s just common sense? Literally everyone knew that? Hmm.)

George the Greek is one of those really old school places that has two types of burgers on the menu: a cheap hamburger (i.e. a bottom-of-the-barrel frozen patty) and a more expensive “homeburger” (which, logic dictates, is one that they make themselves).

I ordered the homeburger, only to find that George the Greek has pulled a C & Dubbs — it’s also a frozen burger. It’s one of the thicker, premium varieties of frozen burger, but a frozen burger is a frozen burger: rubbery hot dog texture with a mildly unpleasant, salty, off-meat flavour.

If you could see me right now, you’d see that I’m giving a very vigorous thumbs down while making a farting noise.

The burger had a pleasant, mild smoky flavour from the grill, and the toppings were fine (I went with pickles, tomato and mayo — and the mayo was actually mayo, not Miracle Whip, which a frequent and unwelcome substitution at old school joints like this. So that was nice.).  The bun was pretty good too — it was standard supermarket fare, but it suited the burger quite well.

Alas, there isn’t much you can do to make a lousy patty like this particularly palatable.

As for the fries, they were slightly better than the hamburger, but they were a bit undercooked and completely unseasoned.

1.5 out of 4

George the Greek - the outside George the Greek - the restaurant George the Greek - the burger and fries George the Greek - the burger

The Opera House Grill

opera
Location
: 737 Queen Street East, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/theoperahousegrill/

I’m going to keep this one relatively brief.  If you’ve read my recent rant about the Opera House Grill’s inclusion on Toronto Life’s new list of the city’s 25 best burgers, then you already pretty much know what I think about this burger: it’s made with a frozen patty, and it doesn’t belong within a million miles of any kind of “best of” list.

Still, that’s not to say that it’s the worst thing ever.  It’s actually pretty okay, as far as frozen burgers go.  The Shaggy Burger (the one that made Toronto Life’s list) is an impressively ridiculous behemoth of a burger.  Piled high with sweet griddled onions, crispy onion rings, bacon, tsatziki, and a healthy mound of cheddar cheese, not to mention the standard burger toppings like lettuce, pickles, and tomato, it’s pretty much the definition of a kitchen sink burger.

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And I won’t lie: it’s pretty good in the middle.  It’s topping overload, but everything in the pile is fairly tasty, and it all tastes pretty good together.  The big mound of shredded cheddar cheese never quite melts as much as it needs to, but aside from that the toppings are solid.

Where the burger really falls apart (figuratively — the bun held up surprisingly well to all the toppings) is around the perimeter of the burger, where all of the many condiments begin to fade away. That’s when you really taste that hot-doggy, mediocre frozen patty, and realize that greatness is simply never going to be in this burger’s vocabulary.

As for the fries, they clearly came out of the same freezer as the burger patty, and were about as middling as you’d expect.

2 out of 4

The Opera House Grill - the outside The Opera House Grill - the restaurant The Opera House Grill - the Shaggy burger The Opera House Grill - the Shaggy Burger The Opera House Grill - the Shaggy Burger

Toronto Life’s New List of the 25 Best Burgers in the City is a Joke

tolife2015
Incendiary headline, I know.  Here’s why.

Toronto Life recently unveiled a brand new list of the 25 best burgers in the city, to compliment the one they published back in 2012.  I was looking through it the other day, and something caught my eye: the Opera House Grill’s Shaggy burger — Toronto Life’s 25th best burger in the city — looked suspiciously like it came out of a box.

I figured that couldn’t possibly be the case, but I went there just to check.

The burger was indeed made with a frozen, industrially-produced patty.  You know, the ones with a rubbery, hot-dog-like texture and a generic, vaguely unpleasant meaty flavour?  Yeah, one of those.  It’s very close if not identical to the ones they serve at distinguished eateries like Cineplex movie theatres and El Furniture Warehouse (the restaurant where everything costs five bucks).

That’s one of the best burgers in the city, apparently.

This is the equivalent of ranking the best movies of all time and including Paul Blart: Mall Cop, or ranking the best bands and including the Baha Men, or ranking the best shows and including Suddenly Susan.

Bringing this back to food, it would be like including a dish sauced with Prego in a list of the best bowls of pasta in the city, or including a Pinty’s product among the best fried chicken, or including Taco Bell among the best taco joints.

I’m belabouring the point, but I feel like I need to make why this is so egregious and galling to me crystal clear.

I’d imagine that the author of the list was won over by the impressively voluminous pile of toppings — tasty stuff like griddled onions, bacon, and onion rings —  and didn’t know enough or care enough to realize that the burger patty itself (i.e. the entire reason to eat a hamburger) was so shoddy.

Of course, publications like Toronto Life have always been more about the toppings than anything else — in fact, the cursory, one-sentence-at-best treatment that the patty gets in most mainstream burger reviews is a big part of why I started this blog in the first place.  But even by that standard, this is absurd.

I’m a burger snob, I know.  You’re probably thinking, “what the hell is he getting so worked up about??” But to me, once you’ve called something that I can buy in the freezer section at No Frills one of the best burgers in the city, that’s that.  You’ve lost all credibility.

So yeah, I’m done, Toronto Life. I guess I’ll miss out on your next hot tip: this little place called Manchu Wok that serves the best Chinese food in the city.

Galito’s

galitos
Location
: 5200 Dixie Road, Unit 55, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.galitoschicken.com/

In my continuing quest to check out any halfway decent burger near my work (which is no easy task when you work in Mississauga, a horrifying burger wasteland), I did my semi-regular “best burger in Mississauga” search, and found a top 15 by Foursquare.  Number 13 on that list: Galito’s.

Wait, Galito’s?  That Galito’s?  The peri peri chicken joint?  Do they even have a burger on the menu?

Apparently they do.  I was fairly certain it was going to be bad (because why does that place even serve a burger??), but I figured, sure – why the hell not?

Ordering a hamburger here is so bizarre that I was honestly a little bit embarrassed even asking for it; I glanced around furtively as I ordered, like a guy buying a Hustler at a convenience store.

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I was asked how spicy I wanted it, which certainly isn’t a question you expect when ordering a burger.  I thought, at the very least, that this might be interesting.

Well, I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I got was a run-of-the-mill frozen patty – grilled – that had been slathered in peri peri sauce.  It was also topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion.

The frozen patty was what it was: with its chewy texture and anemic flavour, it’s identical to the hamburger you’ll find at any number of crappy old-school burger joints, hospital cafeterias, and company picnics. The spicy, lemony peri peri sauce adds some heat and some zip, which kind of helps, but there’s no saving a patty like this.

The burger came with one side — I went with the peri peri fries, which were just mediocre frozen fries that were dusted with some kind of peri peri seasoning.  With the hamburger, I can barely even blame them for going the frozen route – no one but a madman would order a hamburger from a restaurant that otherwise so single-mindedly specializes in chicken. The fries, on the other hand, I have a much harder time forgiving them for.

1.5 out of 4

Galito's - the outside Galito's - the restaurant Galito's - the burger Galito's - the burger Galito's - the burger

Quickies’ Subs & Burgers

quickies
Location
: 18 Rambler Drive, Brampton
Websitehttp://www.quickiesfast.ca/

So the other day I was watching Top Five Restaurants on the Food Network; they were counting down the best burgers in America, and I was getting hungrier and hungrier (sometimes the picks on a show like this can be questionable, but every burger in that episode made me want to quit my job and jump on a plane).

I think by burger number two I had decided that I was going to need to have a hamburger for lunch the next day — sadly, I work in Mississauga, which isn’t exactly a burger-lover’s paradise. It doesn’t help that I’ve already reviewed the few burgers that are actually worth eating out here (as far as I know, at least).

Which is how I ended up at Quickies, maybe the sketchiest place I’ve visited for this blog — and I’ve been to a lot of sketchy places, particularly out in the wilds of Mississauga and Brampton.

I’m not even going to sugar-coat it: the restaurant is flat-out gross. Everything looks like it was in desperate need of renovation about a decade ago, and there was a visible layer of grime on pretty much every surface. Most of the things I touched — the tray, a ketchup bottle — were slick with grease. At one point I dropped my phone while taking pictures of the burger, and when I went under the table to retrieve it, I saw that it had landed next to a dust-caked, cobwebbed French fry that appeared to have been under there for weeks if not months.

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After I left, I felt like I didn’t just need to wash my hands, I needed to wash everything. I needed one of those jailhouse fire-hose showers.

It’s the type of place where, if I weren’t already planning to write about it, I would have taken one step through the door, looked around and walked right back out.

The menu features a four ounce single, and an eight ounce double. I went with the single, and had it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo. The burger was six bucks as a combo with a drink and a very generous portion of fries, so if nothing else it’s crazy cheap.

This being an old-school burger joint in the GTA, the burger was, of course, grilled. There’s really not a lot to say about it — it’s a frozen burger, and though it’s a small step above some of the real bottom-of-the-barrel frozen burgers that I’ve had, it still had that overly processed “is this a hamburger or is it a hot dog?” taste and texture that typifies cheap frozen burgers.

The bun was nicely toasted and suited the burger fairly well, aside from being a bit too big, and the toppings were what you’d expect.

As for the fries, they actually weren’t too bad, surprisingly enough. Given that the place smelled quite strongly of stale grease (oh, did I not mention that the place stunk? Because the place stunk), I had very low expectations for the fries. And though some of them were bordering on undercooked, for the most part they were crispy and tasty, with none of the rancid oil flavour I had feared.

1.5 out of 4

Quickies' Subs and Burgers - the outside Quickies' Subs and Burgers - the restaurant Quickies' Subs and Burgers - the friest Quickies' Subs and Burgers - the burger Quickies' Subs and Burgers - the burger

John Anderson’s Charcoal Broil Hamburgers

anderson
Location
: 1069 Dundas Street West, Mississauga
Website: None

Mediocre frozen burger, mediocre frozen fries, THE END.

Seriously, I think I’ve written enough of these at this point that I really don’t need to go much further than that.  I could just point you in the direction of any number of reviews I’ve written of places that serve mediocre, industrially-produced frozen burgers just like this one.

I wouldn’t be surprised if all the old-school burger joints serving crappy frozen burgers get them from the same supplier, so can’t I just cut-and-paste the same review every time?  Why should I go to the trouble of writing a review from scratch when they can’t be bothered to make a burger from scratch (which is, I should add, probably the easiest thing you can make, so WTF)?

The sad thing is, I discovered this place through random “best burger in Mississauga” searches; clearly, the burger boom that’s hit Toronto in the last few years has left Mississauga almost entirely untouched.

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John Anderson has a regular burger and a “Big Puck” burger on the menu.  I was told that they’re both exactly the same aside from the size, so I went with the regular, and had it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo.

I’m not particularly going to get into it, because why should I, but it was a frozen burger and it tasted like so many other frozen burgers: it had the same overly-processed hot dog texture, and the same disturbing lack of any kind of beefy flavour.

The bun was fine and the toppings were fine — though again, like with so many other old-school burger joints, the mayo is actually Miracle Whip, which I’ve just come to expect at this point.

As for the aforementioned frozen fries, they were well-prepared and slightly better than average, but they were still pretty lifeless compared to the real deal.

1.5 out of 4

John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the outside John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the outside John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the restaurant John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the restaurant John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the burger and fries John Anderson Charcoal Broil Hamburgers - the burger

El Furniture Warehouse

warehouse
Location
: 410 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/ElFurnitureTO

In case you’re not familiar with the place, El Furniture Warehouse’s whole shtick is that every item on the menu costs five bucks (or more accurately, $4.95).  Yes, all the appetizers, mains, and desserts are five bucks.

As you can imagine, it’s a popular place — I went on a Saturday afternoon, and it was pretty much packed.  The vibe seemed a little bit forced, like they were trying really, really hard to be hip, including a purposely unfinished design with a hodgepodge of ephemera on the walls, servers with piercings and tattoos aplenty, and the requisite uncomfortably loud music (how much of a curmudgeon do I sound like right now?).

As for the food?  Surprisingly enough, it’s not horrible.

It’s not particularly good, mind you — but considering what they charge, it could have been a whole lot worse (it certainly doesn’t seem to be any worse than a place like Kelsey’s or Boston Pizza, where the prices are double if not triple what they’re charging here).

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I’m not sure the quality of the food even matters at these prices, but I’ll note that the burger is frozen and industrially produced.  The patties are a bit higher quality than usual (similar to what they serve at Zet’s), so that’s good at least.  It’s not quite as hot-doggy as some, and actually does have some vague beef flavour.  Still, no one will be confusing it for anything but what it is: a cheapo burger that can claim to be edible, but not much more.

There are three burgers on the menu, but the waitress helpfully pointed me in the direction of The Works, their signature hamburger: “maple bacon, cheddar, crispy onion strings, macho sauce, shredded lettuce and tomato on a toasted Brioche bun.”

The toppings were all actually pretty decent — the macho sauce was some kind of garlic mayo, and everything else was pretty good, including the fresh, slightly sweet brioche bun.  With a better patty it could have actually been not bad, but that patty does bring the whole thing down several pegs.

Still, for five bucks including fries (i.e. cheaper than fast food), it might be worth a vague recommendation, provided you know what you’re getting into.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, however, to hear that the fries also aren’t that great; like the burger, they obviously originated in a factory many, many miles away, followed by a long stay in a freezer.  They’re pretty bland, but again, I’ve had worse.

2 out of 4

El Furniture Warehouse - the outside El Furniture Warehouse - the inside El Furniture Warehouse - the burger and fries El Furniture Warehouse - the burger
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